Curran: Goodell wins, but the truth again is lost

Curran: Goodell wins, but the truth again is lost

You keep thinking Roger Goodell’s hit absolute rock-bottom and then he sets a new low.

Thursday morning, while stumping for the NFL Draft on "CBS This Morning," Goodell was back at it again, calling the Wells Report an independent investigation.

Responding to a comment from Saints quarterback Drew Brees that Brees would not “trust any league-led investigation when it comes to anything,” Goodell answered, “There was an independent investigation on this, and an independent report that was presented to me. And that’s what we based the judgement off of. And then we had a hearing, we had a process that is articulated in our collective bargaining agreement that has been there for several decades.” 

We long ago established why the Wells Report wasn’t independent, but since Goodell’s talking points included trying to sell that lie anew, let’s revisit the reasons the Wells Report was a propaganda hit piece.

First, Jeff Pash, the NFL’s lead counsel and one of the primary investigators during the proceedings, edited the report. Goodell’s right-hand man, his legal brain and advisor, the man Wells initially said was around merely to facilitate interviews, put his eyes and hands on the slanted 243-page report that has been proven to be anything but independent.

Second, Lorin Reisner, a fellow lawyer at Wells’ firm, popped up on the conference call Wells staged to bluster about his own integrity during the investigation.

Then, Reisner was questioning and cross-examining on behalf of the NFL during Tom Brady’s appeal. Ultimately, the league stated during court proceedings that it wasn’t bound to give a player an independent investigation anyway so all the holes being poked in Wells’ obvious propaganda piece didn’t even matter. 

So, Goodell would be best off not mentioning the words “independent” and “investigation” as it relates to the Brady case. Of course, he’d have been better off not talking about anything except this week’s appeal decision handed down, but he can’t help himself.

On Wednesday, he offered this fabrication, saying that the 2-to-1 decision upholding Goodell’s right to suspend Brady and conduct the arbitration hearing in the manner he did, “Reaffirmed our authority and the underlying facts to the case.”

They didn’t reaffirm the underlying facts to the case. Actually, the judges were clear that they were not doing that. They were simply reviewing whether Goodell had the right to suspend for conduct detrimental in this instance and whether he was fair in the arbitration process. Two robes thought he was. The third thought he dispensed his own brand of industrial justice and moved the goalposts during the proceedings.

Spinning and selling. Laughing and lying. All in a day’s work.

Don't pigeonhole me: How will Adrian Clayborn fit into the Patriots defense?

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Don't pigeonhole me: How will Adrian Clayborn fit into the Patriots defense?

Looking for a two-word answer from Bill Belichick during a press conference? Ask him how a new addition to the roster might fit into the Patriots scheme. 

"We'll see," is Belichick's typical reply in those situations. 


We point that out here because it's hard to know exactly what any new player's role will be with the Patriots, particularly for an edge player like Adrian Clayborn. That spot in Belichick's defense can take on a variety of roles, from pass-rusher, to edge-setter, to coverage player. 

But we can take an educated guess as to how Clayborn will fit in the Patriots defense, based on what we know. That's what the Patriots did when they signed him. They saw certain skills. They saw Clayborn perform in certain situations. They made their projection. 

There's always the chance Clayborn asserts himself in a way that wasn't expected. Or maybe the way he fits with his new teammates will open his coaches' eyes in ways they weren't anticipating. But at this point, as is the case with every new addition, they're hypothesizing. So we will too. 

AGAINST THE PASS: Clayborn was, for the vast majority of his snaps, a pass-rusher for the Falcons last year. He played 631 snaps for the Falcons, which was 53.4 of their defensive snaps. Of those 631 plays, Clayborn rushed the quarterback 477 times, per Pro Football Focus (76 percent of his workload). And of those pass-rush snaps, only one came from the left side. (Clayborn was born with Erb's palsy, which means his right arm has some limitations compared to his left, which impacts the side of the field he aligns on. He played 91 percent of his snaps from the right side in 2016.)  Clayborn played over 80 percent of the snaps during each of his first three seasons in the league as a member of the Bucs so he's been a three-down player before. But recent history would suggest the 6-foot-2, 280-pounder is now more of a sub option.

Here's how Clayborn responded during a conference call on Wednesday when asked if he could chip in on first and second down for the Patriots. "I believe that’s what people have pigeon-holed me in as a third-down player, but I know I can play first, second, third down if need be," he said. "That was my role in Atlanta because that’s what they asked me to do, but I mean, I can play all three downs if you ask me."

AGAINST THE RUN: According to Pro Football Focus, Clayborn has been a negatively-graded player against the run during each of his seven seasons in the NFL. Last year he checked in as PFF's 78th-ranked run defender among edge players, which was far below the ranking Trey Flowers received (19th) but ahead of Deatrich Wise (85th) and Eric Lee (96th). During each of his last three seasons with the Falcons, he has seen his snap-counts break down similarly: about 75 percent of his work came against the pass, about 25 percent came against the run. He can defend the run. He's capable of it. He just hasn't been asked to consistently hold up on the edge on a down-in-down-out basis during the most recent phase of his career. 

THE FIT: Based on his history in Atlanta, it would make sense if the Patriots asked Clayborn to come off of the right edge in passing situations in 2018. That's where his recent experience has been. Keeping him away from the left side not only makes the most of where he's strongest, but it also keeps him from finding himself in coverage. As Belichick has explained in the past, the left end spot (Rob Ninkovich's old spot), going against right-handed quarterbacks, is typically asked to do more in coverage. The right edge has been Flowers' area in the recent past -- he played almost 65 percent of his passing-rush snaps last season off the right, per PFF -- but if the Patriots are fully-healthy up front, Flowers could kick inside to do his rushing. An ideal sub package for the Patriots, it could be argued, would have Clayborn on the right edge, Flowers and either Wise or Adam Butler on the interior, and Derek Rivers or Dont'a Hightower on the left edge. Rivers saw some work off the left side before suffering an injury in last year's training camp. Early last season, Hightower saw time on the left edge. 


Clayborn will have an opportunity to show he can do more than rush off the right side. He said on Wednesday that the Patriots have discussed multiple roles for him. (Perhaps he could rush from the interior, though he's not as long as Flowers or Wise, whose arms make them good matchups for stouter guards and tackles.) Wherever those opportunities come, Clayborn knows he'll have to make the most of them if he doesn't want to be pigeonholed. The deal for two years and $10 million he just signed in New England doesn't guarantee him myriad responsibilities.

"Whatever I can prove I can do,” he said. "I know I can rush the passer. I know I can set edge in the run. I mean, there’s a couple of different positions that they believe I can play, so it’s up to me to prove I can play them."


Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

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Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

Former Patriots defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois is signing with the Lions, according to Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports.

The 31-year-old had six tackles in six games for the Patriots in 2017. He'll reunite with ex-Patriots defensive coordinator and now Lions head coach Matt Patricia in Detroit.